The National Oversight Committee on COVID-19 met online earlier today to discuss further actions in light of the first fatality and three additional cases detected over the weekend. The Prime Minister delivered an address late this evening on new measures being implemented including the lockdown of the entire Cayo District with limited movements allowed. These movements will include extremely essential services like pharmacies, fuel stations, and farmers. According to the Prime Minister, the government will allow the movement of essential workers.
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “During this period of an enhanced lock down for Cayo random testing will be greatly expanded throughout the district. Everybody tells us that the way to slow if not completely halt the spread of the virus is to do as much testing as possible. We do have ,for the moment, an adequate supply of kits and we’re trying to get more so during the period of this lock down let me repeat the Ministry of Health will do greatly increased surveillance and random testing to try to get a handle on this thing particularly in the first instance in the Cayo district because of the fact of the three cases having come from there. Of Course no lock down can be entirely without exceptions, certain obvious exceptions, in the case of Cayo though the exceptions have to be severely limited. Accordingly, people in Cayo will be strictly confined to the following activities; procuring food and medicine, procuring fuel and finance. Thus grocery shops and pharmacies will be open but during reduced hours. Fuel stations will also operate during reduced hours and banks, credit unions and other lending institutions they will only be able to operate between the hours of 8:00 a.m and twelve noon. Naturally bus transportation to and from the Cayo district will cease all together. To preserve the food supply chains, farms and farmers will be allowed to continue to work. Indeed to this end the Ministry of Agriculture will immediately begin to liaise with the agro productive sector in the district. Additionally of course the movement of essential workers must be provided for so government will have to arrange for their transportation in view of the stoppage of the commercial buses. Remember basically who constitute this category of essential services we’re talking about the medical personnel and their auxiliaries, front line public officers because a number of public officers already have been told to work from home but front line public officers – start to think about customs, immigration people like that, the security forces naturally, the public utilities the lights, the water, the lights must be kept on the water must be kept flowing and the connectivity, the telephone services cannot be interrupted, the social workers responding to emergencies that list is not of course exhausted but I just thought I’d give you a reminder of what the essential services category looks like. Now apart from the Cayo lock down there are also additional measures that the NOC took with respect to the rest of the country.”
For the rest of the country, there will be no adjustments in the list of approved activities with the exception of construction both private and the public which should be shut down for the next 14 days. Prime Minister went on to speak on changes in the authorized opening hours.
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “What’s going to happen for Belize City and the rest of the country. The lists of approved businesses will continue in effect but there are some changes to the working hours, the prescribed hours of those businesses. Before I speak to those changes, which are relatively minor I should perhaps say though that in terms of the new regime to govern Belize City one particular approved activity has been taken off that list of approved businesses entirely and must now cease operations and I’m talking about construction and construction sites private and commercial – they must now be closed in accordance with the decision taken today by the National Oversight Committee, they must now be closed for the next fourteen days in the first instance. But, continuing on; bakeries and tortilla factories, always those were businesses naturally that had to be allowed to remain open their opening hours though will now change, they will go from 5:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m and then they initially were on the list of businesses that could open from 5:00 a.m to 7:00 p.m so to repeat they now change and they go from 5:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m ; we’re trying to shorten working hours as much as possible again to reduce the movement and the flow of traffic of persons in our streets countrywide. From the list of those businesses that previously were allowed to open from 8:00 a.m to 7:00 p.m convenience stores, food stores, supermarkets, meat shops, butchers, distributors and factories of carbonated and over beverages including spirits and excluding potable water and food will now only be opened from 8:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m. So instead of going as was originally prescribed from 8:00 a.m to 7:00 p.m they will also have to cease operations at 4:00 p.m each day. Again it is important that we try to contract these hours to get an even greater handle on the flow of foot and other traffic throughout our municipalities and even our rural areas. The financial institutions, I believe some of the banks had already shortened their hours well now it is as a matter of the mandate given from government and from the National Oversight Committee and of course all this will now be put in a third SI or a third amendment to the original statutory instrument that contained the governing regulations. So financial institutions; commercial banks, credit unions, money lending institutions, money transfer institutions and so on they will only be able to operate between the house of 8:00 a.m and 12 noon. Markets that retail agricultural produce, fish and meat they will be able to start opening a little earlier from 6:00 a.m but they too must close by 4:00 p.m each day. Mechanic shops, garages and other auto parts places from 8:00 a.m again until 4:00 p.m. Hardware stores for delivery services only between 8:00 a.m and 4:00 p.m without prejudice to a reconsideration on the part of the National Oversight Committee. The feeling was that since the construction businesses are being closed now completely for four days there ought to be a drying up of the delivery services provided by hardware stores but since hardware seems to be if not a catch all description very many items that are sold by the hardware stores are such that in the first instance we will still allow them to remain open but I repeat, for delivery services only.”
We will have the details from this latest address later in this newscast.